Friday, December 27, 2013

Inside a chunk of firewood...

...there are beautiful things besides British Thermal Units.

I had a request for some more of the single fly display stands I make, but out of oak, which is typically above my pay grade to purchase at the lumber yard, even though the cost would be somewhat covered (did I tell you I'm a lousy business person?) by the sale of the little stands.  What to do?

(click on the pics for the "big picture")

We heat our family room and kitchen with a woodstove, and have a pretty good supply of seasoned, mixed hardwoods to fuel the fire:

Seemed like there might be some nice pieces of wood lurking within that stack.  I started out thinking it would be fun to use hand planes to get the party started, with a chunk of cherry:

Bad concept, from a "how much time am I willing to spend on this little project?" standpoint.  So out came the hand-held power planer.  Those are three chunks of red oak.

That little tool removes a piece of wood's harsh exterior pretty quickly.

The big planer squares things up and really starts showing a chunk of firewood's inner beauty:

Those three pieces of firewood yielded some lovely lumber:

The table saw divided the top piece into what will become the display stands:

All told, maybe an hour or so's work to find some beautiful hardwood:

Of course, it will take me at least that long to clean up!

Worth it though, and the shop smells great with oak in the air.  There is an old saying that firewood warms you three times:  First, when you cut it.  Second, when you split it, and third, when you burn it.  After building the little displays from my woodpile, I would venture to say that it can warm you a fouth time, that is, when you look at a cherished fly in the little wooden holder, the memories that are evoked warm your soul yet again.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Got your 2014 wall calendar yet??

I'm very pleased and proud to have the Celtic Beauty included in the Miramichi Salmon Association's 2014 wall calendar...the lone American among so many great Canadian tyers.  Purchasing this calendar does two things:  a. dresses up your wall no end and b.  helps the Miramichi Salmon Association, which I am delighted to support, accomplish their goals.  It is fine organization with a great, dedicated staff and a board of directors that are incredibly committed.

My dear friend and great guide and tyer Renate Bullock's RBM (RenateBullockMuddler) is featured as well.  If you've never fished this fly, you're missing a very good thing!

You can purchase the calendar online at:    Please do!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Making a Simple Single-Fly Display

Some time ago, classic fly tyer Eunan Hendron asked me to make some display stands for him that would hold a clear plastic baseball card holder, which held the fly.  Made a few and shipped them off.  Recently had some time on my hands, some wood cut-offs from various project, and the ever-present need to try and make a few bucks.  Thus, this post on making (and hopefully selling!) a fly display stand with case.

First, there was that pesky pile of various woods, chief among them some 200-year old Longleaf pine that came down courtesy Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina back in 1989.  I found it in the rafters of an old sawmill, and used it for the floors of a house we were building outside of Edgefield, SC, when I was the director of development for the National Wild Turkey Federation.  The sapwood is light and has a nice color; the heartwood is hard as a rock, full of pine resin and almost impossible to sand because of that resin.  But it is beautiful.  So I started with this:  (don't forget to click on the pic for the large image)

The first step in the process was to use the planer to get all the pieces down to the same thickness:

Fortunately it was a nice day, so I could move that operation outside:

Because it makes quite a mess (looking down at it over my obnoxious beer belly)!

Next, its on to the joiner to get one side perfectly straight:

Then on to the table saw to rip each piece into a standard width:

Back to the planer to remove any rough saw marks:

Now the strips are ready for a light sanding before they hit the radial arm saw to be cut to length:

Tucker stands guard over this top-secret project!  No chipmunk dare approach!

On to the radial arm saw:

I make a mark on the outfeed side of the table that I use rather than measure and mark each piece after each cut:

A bunch of wanna-be display stands ready for milling:

On to the router table (wish I had room for a bigger, better one!)

Using a round-over bit to cut the radius on each end:

Someday I'm going to get a real belt/disc sander on a stand, but I made this do the job to take off any router burns (also a great way to file your fingernails...whether you want to or not):

Back to the radial arm saw and a stacked dado head cutter to make the groove for the plastic display case. The nice thing about the stacked head cutter is its ability to cut almost any width groove you can dream up. And if you're smart (I'm not), you write down which various cutters and spaces you used to cut a given width channel.

A simple jig out of scrap wood centers each piece the same, and keeps your fingers attached to your hands.

Further to that business about keeping fingers attached to hands, I use a stick to keep the workpiece where its supposed to be and my hand at a safe distance from those little carbide devils waiting to make a meal of my digits:


And a batch ready for finishing:

Pleasant weather made finishing easier; I seem to be the only person in the house that enjoys the smell of polyurethane!  And its thirsty, thirsty work.

My favorite finish (wish they'd cut me a deal on the stuff!)

I stained a batch of the white pine blocks with English Chestnut; a nice, rich hue.

And those pieces head outdoors for their finish coats ( I spray each piece twice, then sand with 220 grit paper to knock the finish down a little, then spray on a third coat for a blemish-free finish):

The finished products:

Rear left is one of my Deep Green Beauties on a English Chestnut-stained pine block.  Rear center is one of Kevin Branch's Orange Picasses on a Cherry base, and rear right is one of Eunan Hendron's Wild Irishman on the 200-year old longleaf heartpine base.  Front left is unsanded white pine, and front right is the longleaf pine sapwood stand.

Want one???  Or some??? (ten percent discount for 5 or more):

As you've seen, these are made by hand, no computer-assisted anything, right here in Vermont, U.S.A.  If any of my Canadian friends would like one, I'll probably have to add a couple bucks to the cost to cover shipping.   You get the base with its felt feet on, the clear plastic case, and the little button that keeps the fly where its supposed to be.  Shipped USPS first class.  Oh, and you supply the fly!

Email me at if you'd like one or my address if you have it.  Paypal works just fine.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Miramichi Salmon Camp, September, 2013

Bridget and I headed to the Miramichi and Bullock's Lodge (formerly Tuckaway Cabins) on Friday, June 13.  We stopped overnight in her favorite town, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, to visit with old friends of hers.  I could live there!  Since I was doing the auction for the Atlantic Salmon Museum's fundraiser Saturday night, we got an early start that morning, arriving to fine weather and a river full of water (to say the least) (and don't forget that you can click on the pic for the big picture):

My good friend Vin Swayze owns the camps used by the Bullock family; he's been keeping the intervale nicely mowed:

The four-wheeler trail alongside his Camp Pool was totally submerged:

Fishing was going to be tough.

Saturday night there was a great crowd at the Doaktown Curling Club for the Atlantic Salmon Museum's Hall of Fame fundraising dinner.

Vivian Harris-Astle, David Adams Richards and the Dieppe Fly Tying Club were inducted that night.  Julian is a fine young fellow and gave a great speech for the Dieppe club, and became my new best friend!  He's also a heck of a fly tyer!

It was probably the most fun auction I've ever done, and thanks to the Salmon Museum for having me!  I promise to get a haircut if you invite me back next year.

After a restful Sunday, we got down to business on Monday.  Bridget and I were very fortunate to have been invited to fish a special little tributary of the Main Southwest Miramichi, with Vin as our guide.  On the way in, we visited New Brunswick's tallest water fall, Fall Brook Falls.  As foolhardy as I've been known to be, rational thinking prevailed and we walked, rather than try to drive, down the trail to the falls.  Steep road!

And then there's the trail to the falls!

The hike in (and out) is worth it:

It's one of New Brunswick's special places.

And Fall Brook is a nice, coldwater feeder to the Miramichi, entering the big river right here:

After the hike up and out, I'm surprised we had the energy to fish, but considering the opportunity we were presented with (Thank you, Manley!), we made sure we were equal to the task.

It's a gorgeous little stream, and there were fish showing everywhere.  I stopped counting at 50 fish.  Bridget got right to work.

The weather started to clear a bit upstream, and that seemed to turn the fish on.

Bridget hooked her first fish around 4pm:

This fish is what Vin called a "Government Salmon".  That is, at 26.5 inches, it's just over the upper-limit length that the Province says defines a grilse.  Who are we to argue?? Salmon it is!

About ten minutes later, she's at it again:

A nice fiesty grilse.  And both fish on a Celtic Beauty!   I, uh, don't seem to recall hooking a fish.  Oh, wait, that's right, I was too busy taking pics of her fish!  Yeah, that's the ticket, I was too busy!

At any rate, it's a beautiful little tributary:

Seems as though someone, somewhere, declared Monday "Ladies Day" for the Miramichi system.  While we were enjoying time upriver, good friend and salmon camp buddy Linda Warren was busy breaking the tip of her Sage Z-Axis on this little guy:

Linda was using one of her husband Bob's salmon fly creations, the Cutty Sark.  I'm proud to say I tied the copy she was using!

Tuesday, and its "Honey, I'm throwing a party for a bunch of guys I met on the internet!" time.  Sounds a little scarey, eh?

We fished for a bit in the morning, but my mind was on the little picnic we were hosting that afternoon, so we got off the river a little early to get things rolling.  Vin and Bob Warren, as well as Bob's english setter blur (somewhere I have picture of her not running, but I don't know where), Molly, helped me set up.

We had perfect weather for a picnic!

Bridget and I took turns at the grill.

And I made sure I took a turn at the food table!  Bridget made the potato salad, and Number One Guide and friend Renate Bullock made the baked beans.  Yum.

We were tickled to have such a great group of folks, most met via several forums come to our little party!  Below, Brian Cuming (left), whom I met on, Dwayne Miller (center) from PEI, and my bud Rene Warren (left), who serves in the Canadian Navy and whom I met on the Nova Scotia FlyGuy forum ( dig in.

Rob Feeney (center), whom I met through the Speypages forum ( and who lives in Fredricton, NB, brought along these new (to me) friends:  Mia and Marty Shepard on the left, all the way from Oregon and owners of a steelheading guide service there ( or  and Nic Clory (next to Rob) and Dwayne Miller, both of Prince Edward Island.  Those two are incredible fly tyers.  Dwayne is on several forums, and has his own group, The Dee Tyer, on facebook.

The Group!

Kneeling, l to r: Rene, Rob, Marty, Vin, Bridget
Standing, l to r:  Brian, Howie Gould (whom I met through the nsflyguy forum; we've fished together and he's now on the NB Salmon Council, taking over Vin's chair.  He has his own group on facebook: Live Release Salmon Anglers), Nic, Dwayne, Kevin Branch (an awesome tyer I met via facebook and speypages), Dan Bullock (manager of Bullock's Lodge), Linda and Bob Warren, Mia, Miramichi regular Murray, neighbor Lucilla, Hazel Swayze (Vin's WAY better half), and Number One Guide Renate Bullock.

Since I had been, er, hydrating rather consistently since noon that day, I opted out of the evening's fishing festivities.

Wednesday was, as they say, however, another day.  The morning's fishing was nothing to write home about, although Dan Bullock and I spent some time discussing flies that might work and when.  I was swimming a variety of flies at the time.  Wednesday night as I was rotating down through the pool the light changed a bit, and Dan suggested that a Glitter Bear might work.  He was right:

Thursday we fished out of Vin's boat, the FTG (funny story about what FTG stands for; ask me sometime).  Bridget's starting to really lay out some line:

Vin dropped me off on a bar mid-river to fish from.  It was easy enough to slide into the hip-deep water, but not so for getting back into the boat, to I just hung on for dear life for a ride back to shore.  Note to self: in the future, hang on to the upstream side of the boat.  River current has an interesting inclination to try and drag you under the boat if you're on the downstream side.  Which I, of course, was.

Long-time friends Bob and Linda Warren.  Linda usually outfishes Bob (and me), but Bob has the edge as a fly tyer.  He edited Pam and Col. Joe Bates Fishing Atlantic Salmon; the flies and the patterns.  His flies are pictured in that work and many others, including Bob Veverka's Spey Flies and How to Tie Them and Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen's Flies for Atlantic Salmon.   He netted my first atlantic salmon and has taught me so much about fly tying.

Bridget and I just waitin' for a ride 'cross river:

I'm still wondering why Dan B. wouldn't let me drive his buggy:

Saturday was our last full day in camp, and it was a beauty:

Bridget landed a nice brookie (wish the iphone pic showed those colors!)  She was (sigh) Top Rod with her two salmon for the second year in a row.

The flies that worked for us over the course of the week (did I mention that Bridget had to take off a Celtic Beauty at one point because it kept hooking so many brookies??).  Celtic Beauty, Cutty Sark, Glitter Bear:

We left camp on Sunday; weather conditions made it a little (but not much) easier to leave.

Our time at Bullock's is always special, and to Dan, Renate and Vin, a special thanks for all you do for us.  And to our new friends and old, let's do it again next year!